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Maison Jaboulet Aîné, The wines of the northern Rhone tasting 23rd May 2013

Tasting a range of the wines of Northern Rhone the overall delicacy and freshness of these wines comes across with several great recent vintages there are great wines to be found at every level.

Hosted by Marie Cordonier of Maison Jaboulet Aîné and attended by Marcel Orford Williams, chief buyer of the Wine Society & fellow  Crouch End resident.

Bistro Aix, Crouch End

La Chapelle

La Chapelle

The wines:

Le Grand Pompee St Joseph Blanc 2010 Approx price: £14

Served as an aperitif. Nice floral nose, good creamy texture in the mouth, great balance and good length. 100% Marsanne. Lovely.

Condrieu Les Grands Amandiers 2008 (Viognier) Approx price: £43

Smokey nose, peaches lurking underneath, more oily texture, stone fruit, medium length. We tasted the 2010 at Maison Jaboulet in Tain L’Hermitage which was floral and fruity and had greater freshness.

Hermitage Le Chevailier de Sterimberg 2008 Approx price: £44

Served together with the H Sterimberg with pate starter.

Named  after the knight crusader Gaspard de Sterimberg who established a hermitage on the hill. This blend of approx. 70% marsanne and 30% rousanne is sensational.  A compact and concentrated nose of pear flesh with a whiff of wood, on the palate again tight complex flavours mixing fruit and nuttiness: apricot stones. This wine has a beautiful mouth feel and great length, still a baby.  At Maison Jaboulet in Tain L’Hermitage we tasted the 2010 which was even more concentrated, had more vigour and freshness and delicious note.  One of the wines of the trip Excellent!

St Joseph Le Grand Pompee Rouge 2010 Approx price: £15

Nice fruity peppery nose, sweet black fruit, savoury notes emerging, medium body, more fruit great lift and freshness, reasonably sustained.  This is good now but with a few years in bottle will fill out with more savoury substance.  From granite soils.  Great value from a great year.   All the 2010 wines we tasted on our trip were stunning with great clean fruit, balance and freshness.  Marcel also felt that one could hardly go wrong buying this vintage.

Cornas Grandes Terrasses: 2009 Approx price: £27

Served with Confit de Canard main course.

Decanted for about an hour this delicious fruit driven wine had a nose of really ripe blackberry with a touch of chocolate almost new world in its exuberance. Concentrated in the mouth packed with more sweet fruit, powerful, plenty of good tannin and enough balance. 2009 was another great year but riper and this has a good future.

Croze Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert 2007 Approx price: £23

A long standing favourite of mine this Croze is special.  Marcel explained that it is one of the oldest vineyards in the area, established by Jaboulet and pre-dating the appellation. Although received wisdom is that Croze from the hilly area north of Hermitage is generally the best this vineyard on the plain consistently produces very fine wine because of a subtle elevation and difference in soil make up.  Whatever the reason I love it and have found that it is best to forget about it for at least 6 – 7 years at which point it begins to sing.

The 2007 is approachable now with nice fruit reflecting yet another good year in the Rhone (though more so in the south). I would still tuck this away for another couple of years though and have resisted opening any bottled of my case bought EP from the Wine Society.

Served side by side with the Cornas the contrast is clear this is all elegance and restraint in comparison to the exuberance of the Cornas. Black cherry, touch of coffee, white pepper on the nose, still a little tight on the palate but then more black fruit, spice and characteristic great vigour from the acidity, medium long.  Promises wonderful drinking.  (currently10% discount at Bibendum)

Hermitage La Petite Chapelle 2007 Approx price: £60

In Tain this was a little closed by having been decanted for a couple of hours it was much more expressive. Served blind with the Chapelle 01 it was fairly clear which was the more youth full wine. Nice fruit on the nose, a scented nose with whiff of flowers and savoury notes underneath. Lots going on in the mouth, really fresh sweet fruit, savoury note making a vibrant mix, long and exciting.  A super wine which will no doubt develop beautifully.

Hermitage La Chapelle 2001 Approx price: £94

On the nose, more mushroom, earth and secondary flavours but still with baked fruit tart sweetness.  On the palate amazing bright acidity and plenty of spicy fruit. Tastes a lot younger than the bouquet even though it is 12 years old. Marcel says this was a tannic year that has taken a long time to come around but it now is coming into its own.

Hermitage La Chapelle 1991

An amazing treat brought by Marcel to share with us.  And what a demonstration in what Hermitage is all about.  Marcel feels that the true expression of Hermitage is a blend of the different vineyards (Michel Chapoutier would disagree but diversity of opinion is the spice of life) and La Chapelle is mostly from Le Meal which produces riper more opulent fruit with some wine from Le Bessards which is more tannic and structured.

This wine at over 22 years is from a very good vintage overshadowed by the 1990 and 1989 vintages. Decanted for about half an hour un-agitated the nose begins as sweet celery sticks then a little soy sauce.  With air a world of aromas opens up each arriving hot on the heels of the other in that way that complex great wines have of continually giving more and more: confit de canard, candied fruits, horse leather, orange peel, oriental spices, baked blackberry pie all this in the mouth too but with great core of freshness and a salty tang. Amazing persistence and vigour, hauntingly lingering in the mouth.  Some wines cerebral and others sensual this is both, simply outstanding.

Thanks to Marie Cordonier of Maison Jaboulet for helping to organise the evening and being such a great host.

Also big thanks to Marcel Orford Williams (Wine Society) for sharing his knowledge to give such detail and colour to the evening and also for sharing this wonderful wine.

Finally we were as always well looked after by the team at http://www.bistroaix.co.uk/ serving delicious french cuisine.

These and other wines of Maison Jaboulet are available at: www.thewinesociety.com

And http://www.bibendumfinewine.com/retail